Looking to get a good camera for backpacking, but not sure where to begin? You’re definitely in the right place! Our detailed review includes ten of the best cameras for backpacking you can buy, as well as a short guide on how to choose the best camera for you.
At A Glance: Best Cameras For Backpacking
I’ll show you lots of different types of cameras, from tiny action cameras that are amazing for recording videos, to full-frame DSLRs that can get you National Geographic quality photographs. And lots of other, outdoor-friendly cameras in between. Read on to find the absolute best camera for hiking and backpacking!
Most Durable Camera For Backpacking
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Best Value For Money
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Most Affordable Full Frame Camera
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Best Action Camera For Backpacking
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Best Mirrorless Camera
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The Olympus Tough TG-6 is one of the best point-and-shoot cameras in terms of durability. It is waterproof, crushproof, dustproof, freezeproof, and shockproof, which means that you could pretty much use it whenever and wherever you want.
This point-and-shoot camera is also really lightweight at just 0.56 lbs, so you will barely even feel it in your backpack. But that’s just the weight of the camera – if you want to bring an extra battery and some lens attachments, it’s going to be a bit heavier than that.
And for hiking and backpacking, you will definitely need that extra battery. The Tough TG-6 can get you up to 340 images on a single charge, but only under perfect conditions. That translates to about 110 minutes of video, but only if zoom and other operational functions are not used.
If you want that extra battery and a few other accessories, you should definitely check out the TG-6 bundle. It comes with a total of three batteries, an SD card, a bunch of lens attachments and filters, a tripod, and some other things. The bundle is probably the best value for money you will find, at least when it comes to this Olympus camera.
The TG-6 camera features a CMOS 12 MP sensor and a maximum zoom of 8x. That’s not really ideal, but it can get you some great shots in really tough conditions. And you can record 4k videos on this tiny camera, which is pretty amazing.
In addition to that, this camera for hiking and backpacking features several different modes you can shoot in. There are five different modes just for shooting underwater, including several different options for white balance.
If you’re just getting into photography and want a good DSLR to take on your backpacking adventures, the Rebel T7 (EOS 2000D in Europe) by Canon is a great option. Especially this particular bundle here, which includes four different lenses (two are auxiliary ones), two SD cards, a flash, a tripod, a bunch of different filters, a bag, and some other stuff. And all of that for some $500!
In terms of value for money, I doubt you will find a better deal than this one. The bundle includes everything you would need to start shooting awesome photos the moment the camera arrives at your doorstep, which is exactly what you need if this is your first DSLR.
On top of that, the EOS Rebel T7 is an entry-level DSLR, so it is pretty simple to use. It’s one of the best cameras for hiking and backpacking if you’re just getting into photography, and you want to get better at it. The T7 is equipped with a 24.1MP sensor that can produce some excellent images, but its video features are pretty weak.
The camera can only record Full HD video, and you won’t get the crispest footage. I’d say skip this DSLR if you want something specifically for recording videos, but seriously consider it if you’re happy just shooting photos.
Another thing worth noting about this DSLR is that it is surprisingly lightweight. It weighs in at 24 ounces with the battery and the kit lens, which is pretty great. Sure, there are lots of lighter options out there, but none of those can get you the image quality that the T7 can. The camera body without the lens weighs a mere 16.76 ounces, which isn’t that much heavier than a standard mirrorless camera!
If your main priority is image quality, then you can’t go wrong with the Nikon D610. It is the brand’s cheapest full-frame DSLR, and it is a great option if you’re just getting into photography. Mind you, even though it is the cheapest full-frame camera from Nikon, this is still a really pricey camera with a four-digit price tag.
And that is just for the camera body – you don’t even get a basic lens with the D610. But if you want a full-frame camera that can get you professional-looking photos, this is by far the most affordable option out of the bunch. Plus, this way you have the ability to purchase the exact lens you want, as opposed to settling for the one you get in the kit.
The D610 features a 24.3 MP full-frame CMOS sensor, which will get you some absolutely breathtaking landscape photos. But that’s true for all full-frame cameras I think; the wider view angle means you can capture more in a single photo, which almost always looks great.
This camera supports WiFi connectivity, but it is not built into it. You have to connect an adapter, which will then let you connect the camera to your phone, allowing you to transfer images instantly, or even remotely control the DSLR.
In terms of portability and ease of use, the D610 is definitely not an option for everyone. You should be familiar with DSLRs to a degree at least so that you can get the most out of the full-frame camera.
And the D610 weighs almost 30 oz with the battery, so it’s not exactly a lightweight camera. Add a telephoto lens onto it, and it’s highly likely you will have sore muscles from carrying this around on your backpacking adventures. But at least you will have some outstanding photos to show for it.
If you want to record your backpacking adventures, I think the best option for you is an action camera. And you can’t get a better one than the GoPro Hero 8 Black – while there are loads of alternatives that are nearly as good as the Hero, none are actually better.
The main advantage of an action camera is that you can use it entirely hands-free. This is awesome for hikes that include difficult climbing sections, or areas that you can’t get through without poles. Even if both your hands are busy, you can get some awesome shots with the GoPro – something you wouldn’t be able to do with a normal digital camera.
That’s because the Hero 8 supports voice control, which is incredibly convenient for busy adventures. There are 14 different voice commands you can give to Hero 8, which means that you can also shoot videos and do some extra things without even touching the GoPro.
On top of that, this action camera is an absolute champion when it comes to portability. It’s absolutely tiny, it weighs just 4.4 ounces, it is waterproof, durable, and suitable for use in extreme conditions. This makes it one of a few cameras for hiking and backpacking that you can actually take on every single adventure.
Also, the Hero8 supports RAW format, which is a must if you like editing your photos. With RAW images you have much more control during the editing process, allowing you to significantly increase the overall quality of your photos.
Additionally, this action camera is capable of shooting 4k video at 60fps, which is pretty amazing. Especially with the HyperSmooth 2.0 stabilization that ensures there’s no shake in your videos, even if you’re riding around on a really bumpy road.
Mirrorless cameras are excellent alternatives to DSLRs because they can get you great image quality but at just a fraction of the weight. They are smaller, lighter, and about a dozen times more portable than mid-range and full-frame DSLR cameras, which is why they’re very popular with avid backpackers. And the Sony Alpha a6000 is one of the top mirrorless cameras you can get your hands on – not just for backpacking!
That’s another reason why I love it – while you might be hesitant to bring your rugged outdoor camera to a wedding, you won’t even second guess taking the Alpha a6000 with you. It will get you stunning images, even if you just use the basic 16-50mm lens that comes in the kit.
This Sony camera has a 24.3 MP CMOS sensor, with hybrid autofocus that has 179 focal points. It features a tilting 3” LCD display as well as an electronic viewfinder for easy shots in really bright conditions.
On top of all that, the camera lets you record Full HD video, and it has built-in WiFi that allows you to connect it to your smartphone for remote control. You can even post photos directly to Facebook or just backup images to the cloud without ever connecting the camera to your computer – an excellent feature that you will cherish a lot if you run out of space on your SD card.
The Alpha a6000 mirrorless camera is compatible with Sony’s E mount lenses, which are moderately priced. They’re cheaper than DSLR lenses, but they can still set you back more than the actual camera.
The one downside of this camera for hiking and backpacking is the battery life – you can get up to 360 shots on a single charge, which is far from ideal. But that’s still a lot better than the 200 that the point-and-shoot cameras can get you, especially considering the difference in image quality.
Further option: A lot of people love the Sony A7R iii as well.
The G7X is popularly known as the best vlogging camera there is, thanks to the large LCD display that flips up. And if you were thinking of vlogging your hikes, it’s the best camera you could get for that purpose.
And it’s also a great camera for shooting photos – with a 20.1MP CMOS sensor and 4.2x optical zoom, you’ll be able to capture some stunning shots. The G7X also boasts a 24-100mm lens, which is equivalent to a 35mm focal length. On top of that, this camera is capable of shooting 4k video at 30fps, with optical image stabilization.
The Canon camera has built-in WiFi and Bluetooth, which means that you can connect it to your phone to view and edit photos as you shoot them. But that’s going to drain your battery faster, so you might not want to do that on really long hikes.
The G7X supports USB charging, which is a game-changer. Most other cameras will have a bulky charger that you can only plug into an outlet. That’s not very convenient for backpacking, since you don’t really have access to a proper power outlet. But you can charge the Canon camera with any power bank, so you don’t even have to carry an extra battery.
This is a great camera for hiking and backpacking in terms of portability and weight. It’s a small digital camera that weighs only about 10 oz with the battery and memory card, so it’s perfectly suitable for long hikes. The only downside of the G7X is the price point – it’s not exactly an affordable camera.
In fact, this is in the same price range as a midrange DSLR, so it’s probably not the best option for you if you’re prioritizing image quality overweight and portability.
The FinePix XP130 by Fujifilm is another great option if you primarily need a durable camera. It is waterproof, freezeproof, dustproof, and shockproof, which makes it a great buy for people who lead a very active lifestyle. And it’s not an expensive camera – the XP130 retails for less than $150!
This digital camera has built-in Bluetooth that allows you to connect it to your smartphone. This feature lets you transfer photos wirelessly, as well as control your camera remotely. You need to install the Fujifilm app on your phone first and then you will be able to remotely release the shutter, adjust the zoom and even switch from camera to video mode.
The XP130 also features several different shooting modes, including timelapse, burst photo, and macro. There are even a couple of underwater modes, as well as sport and night modes.
This backpack camera has 5x optical zoom, as well as 2x digital zoom. It’s not impressive, but it’s certainly a welcome inclusion at this price point. The focal length of the lens is 5-25mm, which is equivalent to 28-140mm on a 35mm format. Again, not exactly impressive, but perfectly adequate for the price.
The largest downside of this camera is the battery life. You can get up to 240 shots on a single charge, but only in perfect conditions – shooting in auto mode with LCD power save on. If you play around with the settings or shoot both photos and videos, the battery life is drastically reduced.
But I have good news – you can get a pack of two NP-45S batteries and a dual charger for just some $15. I highly recommend that you grab the extra set if you end up getting this camera – it’s better to have a spare battery lying around than to run out of charge in the middle of a moment you want to capture.
The Nikon Coolpix W300 is an excellent camera for outdoor adventures. It is a bit pricey for a simple digital camera, especially when you compare it to the options from the competitors. However, none of the other rugged outdoor cameras can come close to this one, in terms of image and video quality.
This camera is freezeproof, waterproof, shockproof, and dustproof, so it’s perfect for use in extremely rugged conditions. It features 5x optical zoom with telephoto power that is unique to the high-quality Nikkor lens of the camera. And it has Hybrid VR image stabilization, which we all know and loves from their VR reduction lenses.
The Coolpix W300 supports 4K video with stereo sound, as well as time-lapse and super lapse video modes. There’s even an AE lock for underwater videos, which will all look super smooth thanks to the VR stabilization.
In addition to that, the Nikon backpacking camera has about 20 different scene modes that let you capture that perfect shot every time, without actually fiddling with the settings. It also has built-in WiFi and Bluetooth, so that you can edit and share your photos as you shoot them. But also so that you can remotely control the camera, as long as you install the app on your phone or tablet first.
The only thing I don’t like about this camera is the battery life. It’s supposed to last around 280 shots in perfect conditions, which is really more like 80 shots when you’re fiddling with the settings. That’s disappointing from Nikon, and you will need to get at least one extra battery if you want to use the camera for longer periods of time, but don’t have access to a charger.
The Pentax K-1 is a pricey full-frame DSLR that’s neither lightweight nor portable. But it’s also one of the best weather-sealed DSLRs on the market, and it’s particularly great for astrophotography and landscape shots. If the weight isn’t a deal-breaker for you, this is easily one of the best cameras for backpacking you can get your hands on.
This DSLR is dustproof and environment-resistant, with a weather-resistant lens. But it’s not waterproof – it will be fine if you use it in the rain, but you should never attempt to use it underwater.
The Pentax camera features a shake reduction image sensor with a resolution of 36 MP. There are several different lens kits to choose from, ranging from a standard 35mm lens to a 15-30mm one that’s excellent for landscape shots.
Another thing you should know about this camera is that it’s not exactly suitable for amateurs. You could just put it in auto mode and shoot, but that would be a waste of money. A full-frame DSLR like this one is capable of capturing professional-quality photographs, so I really don’t recommend this camera to people who don’t even know what focal length is.
I mentioned already that this is a great camera for astrophotography – if your backpacking adventures often include a night in the great outdoors, then you will be able to have quite a lot of fun with the K-1 Mark II. It has an astro tracer extended exposure mode, which is perfect for capturing a starry sky. And there’s even a night vision mode on the LCD display, which makes the camera a lot easier to navigate in the dark.
Ever since it came out, the Nikon Z7 has been praised as the best mirrorless camera in existence. And if you’re looking for the absolute best quality, here it is – but it comes with a hefty price tag. The Z7 body is pretty pricey and the lenses for it are not exactly cheap either, which is why I didn’t feature this camera sooner.
That’s the only bad thing about this Nikon camera though, so I’m glad that’s out of the way. Everything else is top-notch, from the full-frame 45.7 MP image sensor to the 8K time-lapse capability. You can shoot regular videos in 4K, but you will need to scale down to 1080p for slow-motion videos at 120 fps.
The Z7 features a tilting touchscreen for easy navigation, as well as a generous grip for improved stability. It’s also a very durable camera with a body made from Magnesium Alloy – another reason why it’s a great option for backpacking.
In addition to that, the Z7 is equipped with in-body VR image stabilization, which is absolutely amazing. If you’ve had the opportunity to shoot with Nikon cameras, you probably know that there’s a massive difference between their basic and VR lenses. Well, with the Z7, even the lens you put on has VR!
And you can use both Z-mount and F-mount lenses with the Nikon camera, but you will need an FTZ adapter for the latter. It is not included in the purchase of the camera, but it’s definitely worth getting it if you already own some F-mount lenses.
The first thing you need to figure out is whether you prioritize the weight of the camera or image quality.
The thing is, DSLR cameras are the obvious option if you want high-quality images. Full-frame DSLR cameras are as good as it gets when we’re talking about image quality, but they are neither lightweight nor compact.
This is why they’re not my first choice for backpacking adventures, especially if you’re spending the night outdoors – with all the other gear you have to carry, the difference between a 10 oz camera and a 35 oz one becomes massive.
And keep in mind that we’re only talking about the weight of the camera body – with DSLRs, you also have to account for the weight of the lens, which tends to be heavier than the camera itself.
If you are primarily looking for something portable and lightweight, I would suggest you stick with a basic digital camera, or even an action camera if you want to record videos. And if you want DSLR-quality images, but without actually having to carry a DSLR, then go with a mirrorless camera – they can get you some stunning photos, and they are much more portable than bulky DSLR cameras.
The best camera for you is the one that you can confidently use out of the box and get pictures that you are satisfied with. And if you’re not already skilled at photography, that’s not going to be a DSLR.
Modern DSLR cameras have an auto mode, which makes them as easy to use as a point and shoot camera. However, shooting in auto mode will usually get you images that look like they were shot on a basic digital camera – they won’t have that wow effect. In order to achieve that and get the best possible images, you need to shoot in manual mode.
If you don’t have any experience with adjusting shutter speed, ISO sensitivity, exposure, and aperture, you have a long way to go before you can properly use a DSLR. Also, you need to fiddle with these settings every time you want to take an image – if you want to just capture your surroundings in a couple of seconds, a point-and-shoot camera is a much better option for you.
Additionally, some point-and-shoot cameras will actually let you adjust all the different settings, which makes them great for people who are just getting into photography. You can learn what adjusting the different features does, and how to get that perfect shot every time. And when you master such a camera, by the time you switch to a DSLR you will already be a pro!
Imagine dropping north of $1,000 on a really good camera, only to have it stop working because you got caught in a heavy downpour on your hike. Or if you got a really expensive camera for an exciting winter hike, only to realize that it doesn’t work in temperatures below zero.
In order to avoid such a waste of money, you should always check the weather sealing features of a camera you like. If you need something that can work in freezing temperatures or a camera you can safely use underwater, look for something that’s waterproof and weather sealed.
Additionally, it’s important to mention that, even though you might encounter a weather-sealed DSLR, that never means that it is safe to use underwater. Weather sealing actually means that there are rubber trims around the moving parts of the camera (shutter button etc.), which ensure that water can’t get inside through those cracks.
But it’s not just about exposure to the elements. You also need to think about what you normally do on your hikes – do they include a lot of climbing? If so, you need a camera that can easily survive the occasional bump against a rock and not something that will shatter into a million pieces.
I’ve included several cameras that are dustproof and shockproof, and they’re the best ones you could get if you want something to use in extremely rugged conditions. There are cameras you can step on, sit on and bump against a rock without damaging them. Sounds like something everyone as clumsy as me should be buying!
Five years ago you definitely needed a proper camera to get some high-quality shots – phones of those days couldn’t really get you the high-quality images a point-and-shoot camera could. But that’s no longer the case in 2020 – the last two generations of smartphones have such amazing cameras that they easily outperform some basic digital cameras.
And it’s the same for all the major smartphone manufacturers – the newer iPhones are by far the best when it comes to portrait mode and selfies, the newer Samsung Galaxy smartphones are incredibly at low light images and wide-angle shots, while Huawei’s new phones will blow your mind with their insane zoom capabilities.
My point is, if you have a newer smartphone, there’s really no need to buy a point-and-shoot camera. You will notice a difference only if you go for a DSLR or a mirrorless option since our phones are still not quite up there with professional cameras. But give them a couple more years, and they’ll get really close.
Not sure which of these backpacking cameras are the right fit for you? Then go with one of our top three picks, depending on your budget and the type of camera you’re looking for!
If you’re happy with a basic digital camera, then grab the Olympus Tough TG-6. We love this camera for backpacking because it is lightweight, waterproof, and extremely tough. It’s one of a few cameras that can survive falls, harsh weather, and even the occasional bump against a rock. And it’s a really good camera as well, with a decent 12 MP image sensor and support for 4K video recording!
Nikon D610 is what I would recommend to people who are looking for a full-frame DSLR. Even though they’re not exactly portable, full-frame DSLRs are what you need if you want the absolute best image quality.
And this camera just happens to be Nikon’s most affordable full-frame option, even without the frequent discounts that put it under $1000. That is an absolute bargain for a full-frame DSLR with a 24.3 MP image sensor and Full HD video capability.
Those of you that want DSLR quality images but without the actual weight of a DSLR should pick up a mirrorless camera. And that’s the Sony Alpha a6000 here – it is lightweight and portable, with an amazing 24 MP CMOS sensor and a tilting 3” LCD.
This mirrorless camera features incredibly fast autofocus with 179 focal points, which is great for recording videos. And it features a price point in the triple digits, making it one of the most affordable mirrorless cameras on the market!
Head over to Amazon to see the prices of all the backpacking cameras featured in this review. And check out our related posts, for ideas on other amazing cameras you can get for your outdoor adventures!